To understand how important Dinacharya or daily self care is to your well being, you need to understand the earth’s circadian rhythm and how it affects us. The circadian rhythm is the 24 hour cycle of the rise and fall of the sun and moon which controls our master clock. The Rotation of light and dark; controls the part of our brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus or SCN, a group of cells in our hypothalamus that respond to light and dark. The optic nerve in our eye captures beams of light which signal the SCN it is time to be awake. The SCN signals our master clock to release hormones which affect bodily function. The circadian rhythm influences sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, hunger cycles, heart rate, energy levels and more. When our circadian rhythm or master clock is out of sync we experience irregular appetite, body temperature, heart rate, energy levels, and most notably insomnia. Overtime many disorders will develop such as unbalanced blood sugar and hormones causing weight gain, weight loss, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, premenstrual and postmenopausal syndrome. What’s even more significant is how our hormones respond to our own daily routine. When we eat and sleep at the same time everyday; our hormones learn to respond in conjunction with our routine, this is called homeostasis. When our routine is irregular; our hormones have no way to know what is happening next, so they become irregular and weak. Over time the worst thing we can do for our health is to have an irregular routine to which our hormones can never be in sync with. This irregular movement is known as unbalanced Vata. Ayurveda says the best way to balance the movement of Vata is to follow a regular self care routine. Here are some recommendations for a daily self care practice to keep you in balance.
Dinacharya – Daily Self Care Routine
- Awakening with the sun allows your hormones a chance to harmonize with the rays of rising light. To best balance this effect it’s best for Kapha to rise half hour before sunrise, Pitta with the sun, and Vata half hour after sunrise.
- Have a bowel movement within an hour of rising to complete the cleansing process your liver does while you are sleeping. If you find this difficult; then upon rising drink warm purified water till you feel the urge. This may take a few days or even up to a month to regulate.
- Inspect your tongue to see if you have a coating. Use a tongue scraper by scraping from back to front and rinse with hot water in between scrapes till tongue is clean. Next swish 1 – 2 tsp of unrefined sesame oil in your mouth up to 10 minutes. Swishing oil or oil pulling helps to pull out impurities, protects your teeth and gums, and whitens your teeth.
- Gentle Yoga and stretching stimulates your lymphatic system to circulate and loosen areas of pain and stiffness. A half hour routine of sun salutations, forward bend, warrior poses, and balancing poses encourages focus. Sit for pranayama (alternate nostril) and meditation to further increase focus and mindfulness.
- Around 8 am enjoy a Vata pacifying breakfast to keep your mind feeling calm all day. Prepare a cooked breakfast with 1/3 cup steel cut oats, 1/4 cup raisins, 1 tsp ghee and 1 tsp cinnamon. Vata and Pitta people can add sliced banana to the cooking pot of oats to ground the flow of Vata. Pitta and Kapha people can add diced apple or pear to aid cleansing.
- Brush and floss your teeth after all meals using natural Ayurvedic tooth products that use Neem as the main ingredient.
- Abyhanga herbal oil massage is done before bathing and is one of the most important health enhancing practices Ayurveda offers. By massaging warm herbal sesame oil to the head and body and bathing with warm water a protective barrier is created. This greatly prevents dehydration, nourishes the skin, and increases immunity. If needed specially formulated herbal oils can be applied to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Around noon or 1 pm eat your largest meal of the day. When the sun is at its highest point of the day our digestion is also at its strongest point. This allows maximum absorption of nutrients and the least amount of undigested food which creates toxin or ama. Sit quietly and enjoy your meal.
- Enjoy an afternoon walk in nature to help balance the stress from your day.
- Going to sleep before 10:00 PM ensures adequate rest and proper liver cleansing during the night. Do not use electronic devices for 2 hours before bed as it will disturb your natural circadian rhythm switch from light to dark. When the sun goes down our pineal gland stimulates melatonin production which puts us to sleep. The sounder we sleep the more the liver is able to cleanse and purify toxins. Over your life time this can have a huge impact on how much toxins and inflammation you have.